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When Are Appearances Deceiving? The Nature of the Beauty Premium


  • Deryugina, Tatyana


We design a laboratory experiment to illuminate the channels through which relatively more attractive individuals receive higher wages. Specifically, we are able to distinguish taste-based discrimination from rational statistical discrimination and biased beliefs. Using three realistic worker tasks to increase the external validity of our results, we find that the “beauty premium” is highly task-specific: while relatively more attractive workers receive higher wage bids in a bargaining task, there is no such premium in either an analytical task or a data entry task. The premium in the bargaining task is driven by biased beliefs about worker performance. We find that there is substantial learning after worker- specific performance information is revealed, highlighting the importance of accounting for longer-run interactions in studies of discrimination.

Suggested Citation

  • Deryugina, Tatyana, 2013. "When Are Appearances Deceiving? The Nature of the Beauty Premium," MPRA Paper 53581, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:53581

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Castillo, Marco & Petrie, Ragan & Torero, Maximo & Vesterlund, Lise, 2013. "Gender differences in bargaining outcomes: A field experiment on discrimination," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(C), pages 35-48.
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    6. Rosenblat, Tanya, 2008. "The Beauty Premium: Physical Attractiveness and Gender in Dictator Games," Staff General Research Papers Archive 13001, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    7. Simon Gächter & Elke Renner, 2010. "The effects of (incentivized) belief elicitation in public goods experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 13(3), pages 364-377, September.
    8. Berggren, Niclas & Jordahl, Henrik & Poutvaara, Panu, 2010. "The looks of a winner: Beauty and electoral success," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 8-15, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. LIU Xing & SIERMINSKA Eva, 2014. "Evaluating the effect of beauty on labor market outcomes: A review of the literature," LISER Working Paper Series 2014-11, LISER.

    More about this item


    Beauty Premium; Discrimination; Economic Experiments; Labor Markets;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing


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